A.G. seeks help on anti-Romney calls

New Hampshire prosecutor says Oregon firm, once used by Ron Paul, hired company for alleged push poll.

By Tim Grieve

Published January 3, 2008 9:12PM (EST)

Who arranged for those anti-Mitt Romney, anti-Mormon telephone calls that voters in Iowa and New Hampshire received back in November? New Hampshire's attorney general thinks Granite State voters are entitled to know before they go to the polls next week, but a court ruling from Oregon now stands in their way.

Oregon? Let's do this one step at a time.

In a press release, the New Hampshire attorney general's office says it has "determined" that the New Hampshire calls -- which could amount to "push polls" illegal under state law -- were placed by an outfit called Western Wats. As we've noted previously, the fact that Western Wats is based in Utah and has a number of Romney contributors on its payroll has led some to suspect that the Romney campaign paid for the calls in an effort to drum up sympathy for the candidate -- a contention the Romney campaign has denied unequivocally.

But -- if "but" is the right word here -- the attorney general's office has concluded that Western Wats was hired for the work by Moore Information, a polling and strategy firm in Portland, Ore. Moore Information has done work in the past for the Bush-Cheney campaign and a host of Republican governors, senators and members of Congress -- including current GOP presidential contender Ron Paul.

Moore Information has conceded that it hired Western Wats, but it apparently won't say -- at least not voluntarily -- who hired it to do so. The New Hampshire attorney general has arranged for subpoenas to be served on Moore Information in Oregon, but the company has objected, and a court in Oregon Wednesday said it won't hear more on the matter until Jan. 16.

That's eight days after the New Hampshire primary, which leaves New Hampshire attorney general Kelly Ayotte making a not-so-likely-to-succeed public appeal this afternoon: "Because the voters of New Hampshire deserve to know whether any presidential candidate violated New Hampshire's law by conducting this poll, Attorney General Kelly Ayotte requests anyone with information regarding who hired Moore Information, Inc. to cause this poll to be conducted in New Hampshire, in November 2007, to please contact the New Hampshire Attorney General's Office."

Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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